How to go from Hollywood costumer to fashion merchandising guru


Meet Sarah Shaw, CEO of Sarah Shaw Consulting and a women who takes pride in the fact that “she has never really had a job”.

Right out of college, Sarah succeeded in achieving her goal of creating costumes for Hollywood performers. She thought that her life would be spent shuttling from sound stage to sound stage…but one day she got an idea for a different kind of handbag. Soon she was spending each night cutting material and sewing and ornamenting the bags. She found her first customers among the many support people found on Hollywood lots.

After losing her financing after 9/11, Sarah was forced to close her handbag company, but always nurturing new ideas, she soon was selling a closet organizer she designed to the Container Store and other chain stores.

Along the way, Sarah started to receive more and more inquiries from fashion entrepreneurs who wanted to tap into her successful process for bringing a new fashion line to market.

Today, Sarah’s primary business is providing top to bottom advice and services to all manner of new sellers of fashion items. Her specialty is getting her clients’ fashion goods into the hands of celebrities.

Visit Sarah’s website

Listen to our interview

How a writer turned her sense of humor into a publishing business


Meet Donna Cavanaugh, CEO of Humor Outcasts.com.

Donna started writing a weekly humor column for a local Pennsylvania newspaper. Soon, she was syndicated in a series of daily newspapers with a loyal following.

As she transitioned to presenting her brand of humor in the digital world, she quickly noticed that a number of owners of web content sites objected to her brand of wry humor.

So, responding to her innate entrepreneur, Donna launched Humor Outcasts, a web portal that permits a wide variety of amateur and professional humorists to publish their musings, without fear of censorship.

Click here to share your humor


Adventures in the land of olives


Patricia Hajifotiu, Co-founder of The Olive Odysseys, describes her most unique travel company owned by boomers and largely run for boomers.

I spoke with Patricia recently from her location on the Greek island of Evia.

Patricia and her husband Manolis are serial entrepreneurs, having run a photography business in Patricia’s home state of Ohio for almost a decade before they decided to relocate to Manolis’ home…Greece.

In the sunny climes of the Aegean Patricia and Manolis were drawn to the travel business when they answered an ad run by a Colorado company looking for part-time guides for walking and cycling tours of Greece.

Listen to this every engaging interview to learn how Olive Odysseys came to be and where Patricia and Manolis intend to steer their venture.

Click here to learn about Patricia’s business.

How a dainty wrist lead to a fashion selling webstore


In this installment of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Elaine Povinelli, CEO of Dainty Wrist Jewelry.com.

Elaine is an example of a new generation of fashion-oriented online merchants who find a well-defined niche and offer customized products to satisfy the need.

A single mother with several children, Elaine needed to really boost her income as a bank manager. She loved accessorizing her outfits and so regularly shopped her local retailers looking for exciting new bracelets, scarves and other fashion accessories.

But, she continually encountered a challenge – all of the bracelets she found in stores were way too large to comfortably wear on her narrow wrist. So, Elaine went on a quest…to find every supplier out there who offered bracelet designs sized to fit smaller wrists.

And voila! She found that she had created a business sharing her finds with the thousands of women with small wrists.

Check out Elaine’s bracelet collection

How a public relations executive became a small business author


In this installment of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Lynne Strang author of “Late Blooming Entrepreneurs: 8 Principles for Starting a Business After age 40”.

Lynne left a career as a public relations executive to launch her own publicity consulting firm. But, she had also long harbored a desire to write a book about individuals who take the entrepreneurial plunge later in life.

As Lynne started to look for appropriate interview subjects, she quickly realized that putting the book together the way she wanted was going to be nearly full-time work. So, she put the publicity consulting practice onto the back burner for more than two years while she completed the book.

I have read Late Blooming Entrepreneurs and find the real life stories very interesting and often inspiring. In this interview, Lynne describes her transition to author.

Click here to learn more about Lynne’s book


How an engineer went from making lunch meat to making factories work better


In this episode of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Deb Martin, CEO of Profitable Processes.

Over a thirty year career as an Industrial engineer, Deb has worked in a wide variety of large scale manufacturing facilities, the last seven years working for the Oscar Mayer division of Kraft.

With the merger of Kraft and Heinz, Deb received an early retirement offer and jumped at it to retire and launch her own consulting company.

Profitable Processes evaluates and analyzes the in-plant operations of small to mid-size manufacturers looking for cost-saving and productivity-boosting alterations and improvements.

A woman of many talents, Deb also recently published her first book: “Daycare Advice from Haley”, where she puts into print the humorous and sometimes insightful comments of her granddaughter on the world of daycare from a child’s perspective.

Click here to learn more about Deb’s book


How a blog writer for Oprah became a nationally known retirement expert


In this episode of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50″ in I interview Nancy Collamer, CEO of My Lifestyle Career and author of ” Second Act Careers”.

Since we both work with boomer clients, Nancy and I have shared resources, tips and anecdotes for a number of years.

I was pleased to have a chance to have her share the knowledge and wisdom she has collected for those considering retirement.

In addition to running a thriving retirement coaching business, Nancy has long loved writing. She first gained national prominence through her blog writings for Ophrah’s Oxygen network.

Click here to learn more about Nancy’s book


How to select a franchise as a retirement business


In this installment of “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Mike Miller, an old friend from MBA school.

Mike decided that his transition from his corporate management position to semi-retirement would take three steps: (1) Move from Illinois to North Carolina; (2) Build a new house; (3) Purchase a franchised business selling some sort of service.

Learn from his first-hand account how he systematically sifted through a number of franchise offers until he found the one that fit him well.


Why Boomers Become Business Owners

Over the past twenty-five years I have had the pleasure of guiding more than 1,000 of my boomer peers to start and run fun and rewarding entrepreneurial enterprises.

The exact reason each of them was motivated to take this step is highly individualized.

But I can collect together a number of similar motivations and tie them up in a bundle titled: “Pursue Passion”.

Now, some of us boomers were fortunate enough to have been allowed to pursue some sense of passion in our work. But for many of the rest of us, corporate work has been “what you have to do to stay in the middle class”.

Starting a business after you leave the corporate world gives you a whole new opportunity to first and foremost describe your passion…and then create an income-producing business venture around it.


Join me for my new Webinar: “Discover Why It’s so Fun and Rewarding to Run a Business After 50”. I’ll share why so many boomers are starting businesses today; why so many are very successful; and why the combine fun and reward. I’ll share some client stories on how they turned passion into profit!

Register at:

How to get some notice in your hometown

In June I will celebrate the 25th anniversary of starting the business that has evolved into my current company, Bizstarters.com.

One of my first marketing planning tasks back in early January was to create a schedule of promotional events for this year to celebrate my business anniversary.

And the first item on the list was to create an interesting story about my company that I could share with local media.

Now, I am fortunate in that the newspaper with the third largest circulation in the Chicago area is located in the same suburb as is my company, Bizstarters.com. So, over the past couple of years I have gotten to know the business editor through chats at local networking events.

I reached out the to editor knowing that she writes a special column each week featuring interesting tidbits about business in suburban Chicago.

My pitch was simple: Here’s an interesting company, doing interesting things, which has managed to keep doing it for 25 years.

And voila, within a week or so she called me to arrange an interview. I invite you to see the result. Read the Article: Booming with Boomers

How To Get Your Local Media To Notice Your Business

1. Reach out before you want your story to be told.

Start sending short stories to the appropriate contact at your local paper featuring tips for readers on your specialty. Make sure you play up the point that your a company is located in the circulation area of the newspaper.

Continuing my story: A year or so ago after sending a couple of stories to this editor, she emailed me to ask if I would answer a question on marketing a small business. I was pleased to do so, and by doing so did her a favor which she remembered.

2. Write your story from the readers point of view.

Very few reporters will find a story about your company anniversary that interesting in and of itself. What they want you to share with their readers are some of the lessons you have learned over the time you have been in business. Or, if you or your company has won an award, what you learned in the process of drawing enough attention to win the award.

In other words, share “insider tips” with the newspaper readers.

3. Send an appropriate picture.

Most reporters like to use a “work in place” kind of picture which shows you doing something related to your business rather than just a head shot.

In my case, I didn’t really have a recent photo that provided this environment, so I suggested that we shoot a few new photos. I chose to do so at our local library because I knew that they had recently introduced a new business resource center and wanted to talk about it.

You will notice that in my picture I am prominently featured sitting under the resource center sign. This was a win-win to provide an appropriate photo and talk up a local resource.

4. Organize your thoughts.

Rarely, if ever, will a reporter reprint your press story word for word.

They almost always want to interview you and ask you questions, some of which will arise from the press story you sent them.

So, if you need a visual guide when being interviewed, make a written “cheat sheet” of key bits of information from your press story, such as the year you started your business, what compelled you to start your business, key success points, etc.

Interviews are done by phone and typically last 20-25 minutes.

Don’t be long-winded. Answer each question briefly but in a descriptive manner. Keep in mind as you are talking what you would like to read about your company if you were a newspaper subscriber.

My story vs the newspaper story

Compare how I worded the press story versus what turned out in the newspaper story.

Read my PR story

Free Talk Fridays

I like to share special occasions.

And, I’d like to share my 25th anniversary celebration with you.

Each Friday through the end of June, I am pleased to offer free, 30-minute coaching calls to talk about anything small business related – ranging from finding a good business idea to how to boost your business growth.

Click here to schedule your call

Running a Business After 50: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work Alone

This year I celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of coaching my first business start-up client. As I look back on the development of my business, Bizstarters, one life lesson I have particularly benefited from is my realization that “you may work by yourself, but you don’t need to work all alone”.

When I was planning my first business I found the idea of running my company as the sole employee very appealing. But unfortunately I took this to the extreme. I mistakenly let myself believe that I had to complete every decision, task and project my company needed to keep growing. And I started to get very tired.

Over the years I have learned additional lessons about the wisdom of working with others to grow your company.

Recently, I was pleased to share five of my lessons on why NOT TO WORK ALONE with the readers at forbes.com.

Let me share the article with you.

Forbes.com: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work Alone

25 Years in Business: 5 Lessons I Have Learned

25thanniv300In spring of 2016 I celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary of being my own boss.

When I launched my first business in the middle of the 1990 recession, many of my corporate pals thought I was crazy. But, as I reflect on that time 25 years later I realize that I learned an important lesson in successfully growing my business by launching when I did.

Over the intervening years, I have experienced additional eye-opening realizations as to what really matters when you are working to grow a successful business. I’d like to share five of these lessons with you.

Lesson 1 – Create a clear vision and stick to it.

I built the business plan for my first business around my belief that the boomers would once again energize American society…this time with their entrepreneurial interest.

During the 1990 recession corporate managers were being let go by just about every major company in the U.S. Many were 40-something mangers who suddenly needed a new way to work. Few of them had really thought about starting a business, but when my government-financed business start-up program came along, dozens of these folks jumped at the chance to try their hand at an entrepreneurial enterprise.

In seven years, we helped more than 200 individuals start businesses. But, when the dot.com boom started, many closed their businesses and returned to the corporate world.

Needless to say, I was bummed out by this as my ingeniously designed start-up program didn’t seem to be working. It took a lunch with a close friend for me to really re-focus on my mission. He said to me: “when the boomers start hitting 50, you will really see interest in your program, because then they will be planning the next stage of their lives”. The oldest boomers hit age 50 in 1996 and as I expected and my friend predicted, my company has since enjoyed an unending stream of inquiries from prospective boomer entrepreneurs.

Lesson 2 – Just because you work by yourself, doesn’t mean you have to work alone

When I was preparing to launch my first business I was a bit burnt out from managing employees. So, it was very attractive to me to be able to work by myself.

Unfortunately, I took this “lone man” approach too far; believing that I personally had to make every decision, find every resource and design every process. After three years of slugging it out on my own I was getting pretty tired.

One of the tasks that most frustrated me was managing my books. Accounting had been my least favorite subject in both undergraduate and graduate business school and I really procrastinated in keeping my books up to date.

One day I received a call from a client who had attended my government-funded startup program. She was starting a QuickBooks-centered bookkeeping service and offered to enter my financial data at no cost for six months if I could provide some leads.

This was my first “business partner” and suddenly I had a “team” running my business. Today, I work with a virtual network of contractors, service providers and content experts to boost the growth my company. And I never feel like I am working all alone!

Lesson 3 – Combine high tech, and high touch

In 1992, while browsing my local library I came across a best-selling business book: “MegaTrends”. Among the prognostications presented was one that predicted that as the influence of business technology grew, customers and clients would seek an offsetting “high touch” element whereby the business owner offered a personal connection.

My first few years as a business start-up coach were decidedly low-tech. I started by entering my sales and expenses into a Dome ledger book. I was overjoyed when I discovered QuickBooks. My first tech breakthrough.

I thought that I was providing the “high touch” through my intensive client support, but I had to admit to myself that I was sometimes a bit tardy in sending out requested flyers and brochures.

In spring of 1993 I discovered how to really use computer technology to automate some of my support work, thereby leaving me more time for the “high touch” part of my business.

A group of downsized Apple managers were enrolled in my business start-up program. When they learned that I was using a 286-generation PC, they marched me over to their company store and directed me to buy a McIntosh computer.

Along with the Mac came a new technology – “desktop publishing” – and suddenly I was pumping out eye-catching brochures and sales letters to support my marketing. Microsoft Word and Mail Merge completely revolutionized how I could offer personalized responses in a very timely fashion.

Today, our clients send questions by text and e-mail and receive almost instantaneous answers. Our website is “our brochure on steroids”. Designing with WordPress permits our site to be as easily read on a smart phone as it is on a desktop monitor.

I feel that I have arrived at the critical balance of “high tech” and “high touch”.

Lesson 4 – Start each year with a clear financial plan

During my first first years in business I was running from project to project, grabbing money as I could. I didn’t really have a plan.

But, then suddenly I was offered three major projects to offer my business start-up training and I knew that I couldn’t pursue all three without really stretching my time and resources.

It was at this time that I realized that I needed to start using an annual financial plan, where I set down my dollar goals, described was specific tasks needed to be completed to achieve the plan and detailed who would do each task.

For the past twenty-one years, I have started each year by writing out my financial plan for the year, laying out specific tasks on a spreadsheet with a blank column for describing the people and other resources necessary to complete each task.

I feel much more in control this way and confident when an unexpected opportunity comes my way.

Lesson 5 – Be curious and continually learn new things
Like a lot of corporate managers, I found myself doing pretty much the same work, week in and week out. My specialty was getting back customers that my employers had ticked off, and I was good enough at doing it that my bosses didn’t want me to do anything else.

But I love to read and have always been a curious person. When I was preparing to launch my first business I gave myself a challenge: learn a new business skill or technique at least once per month.

When you are teaching others how to plan and launch businesses you need to not only learn how to use a diverse set of techniques yourself, but you must also learn how to teach others to use them. This requires that you dig a bit further into exactly how a resource is used or how a new management process is implemented.

This has boosted my strong drive to continually learn how to use new techniques, resources and relationships.

I have learned from working with hundreds of new entrepreneurs that a common characteristic of those who are most successful is that they have a strong curiosity both for business knowledge and life learning.

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